Walk for five minutes west of the Estate and you will find Hampstead Heath, one of London’s largest and most popular open spaces. It can take years to explore its 800 acres, which are managed by The City of London with some areas used as a family park with recreational facilities whilst others are left as semi-wild grassland and woodland environments for wildlife.
It is a haven for flora and fauna including foxes, bats, kingfishers, reed warblers and all three species of British woodpeckers. Amongst many attractions of the Heath you will find,
- Kenwood House – a historic home now owned by English Heritage and the venue of open-air concerts in the summer.
- Lakes – including ladies, gents and mixed swimming ponds open year-round
- Parliament Hill – with its famous kite flying and fabulous views over London
- There is a popular Farmers Market in the grounds of Parliament Hill School every Saturday between 10am and 2pm.
A few minutes in an easterly direction takes you to Waterlow Park. Set on the southern slopes just below Highgate village it is a smaller and more conventional park with lawns, ponds and formal gardens. The park has recently been improved and restored. This has seen the creation of a Parks Centre, installation of a new children’s playground, restoration of the terraced gardens and surrounding historic walls, the creation of timber boardwalks and viewing platforms at two of the ponds.
Lauderdale House at the edge of the park is used as a tea room and for functions and arts events including shows for young children on Saturday mornings.
Just south of Waterlow Park is Highgate Cemetery; opened in 1839 it is a fascinating blend of overgrown tombstones and monuments. The Cemetery is listed by English Heritage as of “outstanding historical and architectural interest”. The old cemetery is wonderfully decrepit, frequently it has featured as a location for horror films and can only be visited on an accompanied tour – well worth a visit to see the Circle of Lebanon and Egyptian Avenue. The new cemetery is nearly as eccentric and less wild and overgrown than the old cemetery. it is open to the public and many visitors go there to pay pilgrimage at Karl Marx’s grave.
Highgate Village is a ten minute walk up Highgate West Hill; it is a picturesque, historic, thriving London community home to many lively cultural institutions, ancient pubs as well as numerous estate agents and a garden centre.
- The Highgate Society is a local organisation with the aim of making Highgate a better place to live and work.
- The Literary & Scientific Institution aims to be the cultural heart of Highgate.
- There is an annual Highgate Festival each May featuring world-class classical artists as well as an outdoor fair and entertainments.